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Old Feb 10, 09, 9:52 pm   #1
 
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can new US citizen refuse to answer unreasonable questions by CBP officer at airport?

As a fairly new US citizen, I was "annoyed" when returning to the US recently. This was at an airport. For reasons unknown to me, I was sent to the waiting room for secondary. After a few minutes of staring at foreign citizens waiting to be processed, my name was called. The officer asked several routine questions. (where do you work, what do you do, where do you live, where were you born, etc, etc...) then out of the blue, I was also asked if I own a firearm and the kind of car I drive. As a proud NRA and AAA member, I answer those two questions without thinking. I was out of there within a couple minutes... but the questioning stuck in my head.

Now I'm wondering what would have happened if I had refused to answer those last two question...(or any questions at all, for that matter) Does the CBP have the legal right to find out what I do for a living? If I got laid off from my job, do I no longer have to right to enter the US? Since I'm a law-abiding US citizen, don't I have the right to enter the US? Or do I not have the same rights as a natural-born US citizen?

Don't get me wrong.... I have no problem with the officers doing their jobs. But where in their training does it say that it's okay to ask personal questions or even illegal questions?

Prior to becoming a US citizen, I answered whatever questions the CBP officers had for me. I only had a greencard and I figured I didn't really have any "rights" because greencard holders don't have the "right" to enter the US. It's more like a "privilege" the return to the US. I was even asked to show a CBP officer my bellybutton once, which I complied without thinking.(still have not idea what the purpose was... it's wasn't like I could hide WMD in my bellybutton Edit: just to clarity, this bellybutton incident was not at the airport. it was at the CBP checkpoint in Detroit.(Windsor Tunnel, coming back from Windsor to Detroit)


Last edited by Roy2CDG; Feb 11, 09 at 12:48 pm.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 10:04 pm   #2
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US citizens -- naturalized or natural-born -- have equal right to return to the US and be cleared into the US upon verification of identity as a US citizen and having been cleared by customs.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 10:21 pm   #3
 
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Yes, I agree, someone please correct me if I am wrong but once you were naturalized you have every right afforded to any citizen born or naturalized except for the right to hold the office of President. Though that might be a favor...
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Old Feb 10, 09, 10:27 pm   #4
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PER US LAW a U.S. citizen can not be denied entry into the U.S. EVER. It is a so called "fundamental right"

Beyond that you absolutely have the right to refuse to answer any question asked by law enforcement including CBP. The only time a person (not even a citizen) can be forced to answer questions is when a judge orders he or she to do so, after a determination has been made that his or her 5th amendment rights have not been violated.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 10:29 pm   #5
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Originally Posted by jgoodm View Post
Yes, I agree, someone please correct me if I am wrong but once you were naturalized you have every right afforded to any citizen born or naturalized except for the right to hold the office of President. Though that might be a favor...
That's not true, naturalized citizenship can be stripped if it is determined that it was obtained through false pretense.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 10:33 pm   #6
 
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I think I may be able to enlighten you as to what happened. It sounds like the first officer you saw, for whatever reason, doubted your identity. That would explain the referral for further examination. It would also explain why the officer would be asking you odd questions. Think about someone trying to sneak into the US on a fraudulent document. That person would likely have prepared answers to such common questions as work, home address, etc. I have to admit the firearm question confused me slightly, though.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 10:35 pm   #7
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A green card holder, or LPR as we say in the biz, seeks admission every time he or she comes to the border or adjusts status. Where with citizens admission is guaranteed, LPRs have to show that they are admissible (through display of the green card) and are not excludable (by committing various crimes).

The fun part happens when an LPR commits an act that would make he or she excludable but not deportable. At that point the LPR could not apply for citizenship and or leave the country.

That being said, once an LPR proves that he or she is admissible, it is at his or her discretion to refuse to answer questions or consent to any searches.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 10:35 pm   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roy2CDG View Post
Now I'm wondering what would have happened if I had refused to answer those last two question...(or any questions at all, for that matter) Does the CBP have the legal right to find out what I do for a living? If I got laid off from my job, do I no longer have to right to enter the US? Since I'm a law-abiding US citizen, don't I have the right to enter the US? Or do I not have the same rights as a natural-born US citizen?

Don't get me wrong.... I have no problem with the officers doing their jobs. But where in their training does it say that it's okay to ask personal questions or even illegal questions?


You don't have to say a word. GUWonder is correct. CBP officers cannot deny you entry to the USA if you are a US Citizen, regardless of whether you are a native-born or naturalized citizen.

HOWEVER....the officers CAN choose to examine you and your belongings, without a warrant, in order to administer many different federal laws that they are charged with enforcing. Obviously, CBP would like to examine 100% of arriving travelers, but it doesn't have the resources to do so. As a result, the officers have to make on-the-spot judgments about whether to pull you aside for inspection or to let you go without inspection.

Asking questions like the ones you received (where you live, what kind of work you do, whether you own a gun, etc.) are "prompting" questions so that the officers can decide whether to search you or let you go. You are under no obligation to reply at all. The officers cannot deny you entry into the USA if you refuse to answer. However, if you refuse to answer, or if they don't like your answers, they can conduct a thorough search of your person and accompanying possessions. This kind of customs processing can be extremely inconvenient and time-consuming. Some people are even detained for a monitored bowel movement if CBP officers suspect them of being drug mules.

So, my advice would be that you answer all questions truthfully and cordially. If you wish to stand on principle, you can, but chances are you'll be thoroughly searched. You might even end up on a list that ensures that you will get a customs secondary during every entry. So, I recommend playing along for the sake of your own convenience. And TELL THE TRUTH.

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Last edited by ESpen36; Feb 10, 09 at 10:41 pm.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 10:46 pm   #9
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Originally Posted by ESpen36 View Post
You don't have to say a word. GUWonder is correct. CBP officers cannot deny you entry to the USA if you are a US Citizen, regardless of whether you are a native-born or naturalized citizen.

HOWEVER....the officers CAN choose to examine you and your belongings, without a warrant, in order to administer many different federal laws that they are charged with enforcing. Obviously, CBP would like to examine 100% of arriving travelers, but it doesn't have the resources to do so. As a result, the officers have to make on-the-spot judgments about whether to pull you aside for inspection or to let you go without inspection.

Asking questions like the ones you received (where you live, what kind of work you do, whether you own a gun, etc.) are "prompting" questions so that the officers can decide whether to search you or let you go. You are under no obligation to reply at all. The officers cannot deny you entry into the USA if you refuse to answer. However, if you refuse to answer, or if they don't like your answers, they can conduct a thorough search of your person and accompanying possessions. This kind of customs processing can be extremely inconvenient and time-consuming. Some people are even detained for a monitored bowel movement if CBP officers suspect them of being drug mules.

So, my advice would be that you answer all questions truthfully and cordially. If you wish to stand on principle, you can, but chances are you'll be thoroughly searched. You might even end up on a list that ensures that you will get a customs secondary during every entry. So, I recommend playing along for the sake of your own convenience. And TELL THE TRUTH.

Good Link
Yes, yes. I tried that argument on a girl I was trying to pick up a bar one night.

It went like this I told her "Help stop rape, consent." Needless to say I went home single.

(ok, that didn't really happen)

The fact that their job is harder is not a good enough reason to consent to interrogation. Though what he says is true, if you refuse to answer questions prepare for all your stuff to be searched.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 11:29 pm   #10
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Originally Posted by yyzvoyageur View Post
I think I may be able to enlighten you as to what happened. It sounds like the first officer you saw, for whatever reason, doubted your identity. That would explain the referral for further examination. It would also explain why the officer would be asking you odd questions. Think about someone trying to sneak into the US on a fraudulent document. That person would likely have prepared answers to such common questions as work, home address, etc. I have to admit the firearm question confused me slightly, though.
Good point. If the OP owns a gun, chances are he has a license for it. If he drives a car, chances are it is registered. Looks like those two questions are pretty good questions that solicit additional information that would help verify one's identity.

As a naturalized citizen, fingerprints would have worked, too, and would have been faster. That is not to say that it would be good policy, but it would be easier than sticking someone in a room and asking questions.
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Old Feb 10, 09, 11:58 pm   #11
 
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It doesn't matter if you naturalized this morning or if you were born here, you're equally a US citizen and have the same rights and responsibilities. Well except for running for president. But there isn't enough money in the world to get me to take that job.
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Old Feb 11, 09, 8:53 am   #12
 
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Good point. If the OP owns a gun, chances are he has a license for it.
Depends where the OP lives. Not every jurisdiction requires a license / permit / FOID card to buy a gun. There's no government record of me purchasing ANY firearms (unless someone is illegally keeping records of the NCIS check, which I doubt happens here). If CPB asked me that question, I'd laugh it off.

I would guess the CPB agent was fishing, or looking for nervousness that could indicate the OP's brother was trying to get into the US on the OP's papers.
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Old Feb 11, 09, 9:03 am   #13
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Originally Posted by Roy2CDG View Post
................. I was even asked to show a CBP officer my bellybutton once, which I complied without thinking.(still have not idea what the purpose was... it's wasn't like I could hide WMD in my bellybutton

That is really strange
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Old Feb 11, 09, 9:26 am   #14
 
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Originally Posted by swei0009 View Post
Depends where the OP lives. Not every jurisdiction requires a license / permit / FOID card to buy a gun. There's no government record of me purchasing ANY firearms (unless someone is illegally keeping records of the NCIS check, which I doubt happens here). If CPB asked me that question, I'd laugh it off.

I would guess the CPB agent was fishing, or looking for nervousness that could indicate the OP's brother was trying to get into the US on the OP's papers.
Or, it could be the other way around. It could be that the CPB agent, in the process of trying to verify the OP's identity, found that the OP already had a license for a firearm, and asked the question to confirm the OP's identity.

But this is just speculation on my part ...
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Old Feb 11, 09, 9:47 am   #15
 
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I think the questions were to 'trip' you, see if you'd break a sweat, get nervous, etc. You're within your rights to refuse to answer, just as the agent is within his rights to search your person + possessions if he has doubts that you may be breaking a/some law(s).

Bottom line, it's probably in your interest to answer the questions for the purpose of speeding things up.

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